In Iceland, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is considered to be an area of supernatural energy. It oozes from the Snæfellsjökull glacier – the gateway to the centre of the earth according to Jules Verne's novel from 1864, A Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Not that it is affecting the everyday life of those who live on the Peninsula. They go about their daily lives on farms and in villages, minding their own business and enjoying the exquisite nature surrounding them. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is indeed an area of natural beauty and diversity, as well as, rich history; an area where many an Icelander dreams of living.
Lúðvík Smárason, a fisherman, a teacher, a carpenter and a construction engineer was born and bred in Hellissandur and later at Rif, the westernmost villages on the Peninsula. When he was still a child, his family upped and moved to Reykjavík but only stayed there for a year. "We didn't like it," says Lúðvík. The family moved back to Rif where his father, a carpenter, built his family a home.
It didn’t feel s mall
Being a carpenter in Iceland has its challenges. The weather is not at all favorable to those working outdoors, building houses; nail-by-nail, board-by-board, brick-by-brick. In 1987, Lúðvík's father decided enough was enough. He packed his carpentry and took on the role of custodian at the local elementary school until his retirement.
When asked how he felt about returning to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula after living in Reykjavík for a year, Lúðvík replies: "I felt immensely relieved. It had been a short-lived experience, and I didn't make any lasting connection with other children and the community there. I loved my life in Rif and Hellissandur. We enjoyed freedom alien to children living in Reykjavík. At the time, there were many children living in Rif and Hellissandur. The two villages have always functioned as one. In my year, there were seventeen children. In the next year above there were 24 children. Today there are much fewer children around. There are only 160 people living in Rif and between 400 and 500 in Hellissandur. Still, it didn't feel like a small community when I was a child as there were so many children around."
Leaving and returning home
After completing elementary school at the age of 16, Lúðvík went to Akureyri in North Iceland to finish his A-levels. "The kids from the Snæfellsnes Peninsula who went to college tended to go to Akureyri as they had a dormitory. I don't know why we didn't go to Laugarvatn, which is much nearer to Snæfellsnes," says Lúðvík.
After completing his A-levels, he took a sabbatical year where he studied English in England and took a fishing season in Rif for a few months before starting his studies at the Teacher's College in Reykjavík. "There I met my wife who comes from Keflavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula. When we finished our studies we were both hired as teachers at the Rif Elementary School."
The builder and the fisherman
Lúðvik was a teacher from 1984 to 1996 when he quit. "My wife and I were together 24/7, at home and the school and it simply got to be too much. I got a job debarking and unloading fish at the harbor. Ever since I was a teenager, I had gone fishing with my father during the summer. That is when the weather allowed. When it didn't, I was working with him building houses. I liked both jobs very much. I like the sea and the activity around the harbor.
As teachers Lúðvík and his wife, Anna Þóra, could have settled anywhere in Iceland. Why Rif? "The elementary school here was in need of teachers. They offered subsidized housing, which was very convenient. It was a good place to start. My wife never intended to stay more than two years – but here we are. When she stopped teaching, she decided to train as a yoga teacher, which is her profession today though she is still a substitute teacher both at the local preschool and the elementary school."
In 2006, Lúðvík moved to Denmark to study construction engineering. His wife joined him a year later, and they stayed in Denmark for three and a half years. When they moved back in 2010 Iceland was still in a mess following the economic crisis in October 2008. Lúðvík was free-lancing designing constructions until July 2014 when he started working as Snæfellsbær's building inspector. "I gave it a year but didn't like it at all. It was rather a dull job. So, I resigned and went back to what I had always done, fishing and carpentry during the summer, with a bit of free-lancing in between."
When asked what is the greatest advantage of living in a place like Rif, Lúðvík replies: "If you have connection to the sea, this is a very good location. The distance to the waters is short, and they are good waters. We can start fishing very early in the spring and continue until late fall."
A creature of habit
But, why fishing when he can choose from so much more? "I like the waters, and I like fishing," says Lúðvík. "It offers much freedom, and I have always enjoyed success. I am also a creature of habit. Somehow, I got caught in this profession and find it hard to tear myself away from it. My time in Denmark was great, and I am very happy to have had a try at being a construction inspector. Now I know I am not missing out on anything.
For a fisherman, Rif is a great place. Then we are a mere two and a half hours drive from the capital area. It is very easy for us to enjoy all the services, entertainment and pastime Reykjavik has to offer. Rif and Hellissandur is a good community. I am now building a house in a traditional Icelandic style in Hellissandur where my wife and I plan to run some operation in the future. She has been running a café during the summer for some years at a rented location. It has its disadvantages, so I decided to build us a house."